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    Sri Lanka raises first formal protest against cross-border poaching

    January 28, 2016

    Exasperated by the unabated poaching by cross boarder flotillas from sub-continental coastline, people of Mannar District-one of the richest and most diverse fishery spots in the Asian Pacific Region-have finally braved many a sentiments and decided to take their case all the way to the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka-and a historic regional resolution condemning poaching by Indian fishers has now been adopted for the first time in Sri Lanka.

     


    “The Mannar fishermen have been making their representations to me for a long time and I too have witnessed this poaching incident myself. Today I propose to adopt a resolution to stage our written protest to the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka” declared Minister of Industry and Commerce, Vanni MP, and Co-Chairman of Mannar District Development Council (DDC) Rishad Bathiudeen recently in Mannar.

     


    Minister Bathiudeen was addressing the Mannar District Development Council meeting held in Mannar on January 20. The meeting was jointly lead by Minister Bathiudeen, Vanni District MP KK Masthan, and Mannar District Secretary M.Y.S.Deshapriya. The Chief Minister of Northern Provincial Council C V Wigneswaran was absent at the session due to unavoidable circumstances that kept him away. Among others present at the meeting were top officers of tri-forces, region’s top Police brass, other government officials and representatives of fishermen of Mannar District.

     


    “Poaching by Indian fishermen who illegally cross to Lankan territorial waters and destroy our fishermen’s livelihoods has become unbearable to fishermen of Mannar District” said Minister Bathiudeen and added: “It seems that there is no end to this. We are now tired. The Mannar fishermen have been making their representations to me for a long time and I too have witnessed this poaching incident myself. Today I propose that the Mannar District Development Council (DDC) move a resolution to stage our written protest to the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka through our Foreign Ministry offices. We believe that this cannot and should not go on.  Last year, instances of illegal poaching entries exceeded 35000 and we believe they originate from the Southern coasts of India, which we also succeeded in identifying. Sri Lanka has lost more than 30000 MT of fish last year due to poaching.”

     


    President of Mannar District Fishermen's Cooperative Societies (UMDFCS) N.M. Aalam confirmed the above.  “We are happy at last this resolution was adopted. The Indian fishermen are also using bottom trawler fishing which greatly depletes our fish volumes. We are losing 600 MT fish per week to them in all of Northern Province! We can see that they start as early as 6pm daily and go on till 1am the following day-at least 10 Indian boats could be seen each night, sometimes more” Aalam said.

     


    With 162 Km coastal length, Mannar District, the second largest District in North after  Mullaitivu, is considered to be one of the richest and diverse fishery resources in the Asian Pacific Region. In Mannar District alone more than 8500 MT of fish are netted annually. It is famous for White Fishes, Prawns & Tiger Prawns, Sea Crabs & Mad Crabs, and Pure White Cuttlefish. The potential for high value fisheries such as Béche-de-mer (Sea Cucumber) has attracted overseas investor interest including Maldivian private sector, to set up in Mannar.

     


    After he moved the resolution at the DDC meeting, Minister Bathiudee received immediate and strong backing from the District’s fisherman -and many others. “We congratulate Minister Bathiudeen for his brave speech and resolution” said Christopher, a fisherman from Vankalai whose traditional fishery life in Mannar coast spans several generations. ”What we want is, not to fight with anyone –but only to safeguard our livelihoods.”

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